Wednesday, April 28, 2021

REVIEW: 'The Handmaid's Tale' - The Handmaids Take June to a Farm to Heal and Plot Their Next Moves Against Gilead in 'Pigs'

Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale - Episode 4.01 "Pigs"

On the run, an injured June and the fugitive Handmaids find refuge at a farm, where the 14-year-old Wife nurses June back to health. June restores her role as the women's leader. In Gilead, an imprisoned Lawrence tries to avoid a death sentence, and Aunt Lydia reels from the loss of 86 children on Angels' Flight. The combative Waterfords, in custody in Toronto, learn of June's feat.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale.

"Pigs" was written by Bruce Miller and directed by Colin Watkinson

The drama has basically established at this point that June cannot die and cannot leave Gilead. Those are the rules the narrative sticks to no matter what. They've been annoying because June has been given multiple opportunities to escape. Every single time is then disrupted by some plot contrivance to make her stay. They have grown increasingly irrational as the series has gone along. As such, the story no longer has the same power and resonance it did in the beginning. It still enjoys inflicting a lot of harm and trauma onto its characters though. That has to be a part of the journey apparently. It's a study of the heinous actions done to one person and the horrors they, in turn, are willing to inflict on others. That's basically the depth of the story at this point in time. June pulled off something miraculous. Nine Marthas and 86 children escaped Gilead. She wasn't on the plane. Hannah hasn't escaped either. However, June facilitated the escape to freedom for many children. They are now capable of being reunited with their real families in Canada. It's a miracle. June was shot during this daring plot. The handmaids came back to save her. They missed their opportunity to escape. And now, they are basically accepting that life on the Keyes farm is as much freedom as they can ever find again. It's depressing and demoralizing. It's not something that June wants to accept. She still sees the world in these big and broad terms. The leaders of Gilead aren't thinking small. June cannot abide by that same luxury. This country is still inflicting so much harm on so many women and children. Her actions delivered a decisive and major blow. However, Lawrence is already suggesting a way for Gilead to sanction it and bring a newfound sense of legitimacy to their standing in the world. That's probably the only way that he survives being a co-conspirator in this plot. Of course, Nick being the commander who keeps him up to date on the council's decisions is an action done solely out of convenience. It adds nothing to the story overall. It's just putting a familiar face in that role even though he was last sent to the warfront in Chicago. His story is no longer being pulled in that direction. Why is that? It doesn't particularly matter. He just now exists to serve in this role in Gilead. Nick and Lawrence get to be the familiar faces who understand June's plight. They may disrupt her legacy. They are also trying to survive themselves. That too reveals the show's overall reluctance to offer severe consequences for these characters. Aunt Lydia is still suggesting that she can adequately punish June if she is returned to her. That hasn't been true in the first three seasons. That is unlikely to change now. Of course, it's much easier to believe that June's future crosses paths with Lydia again instead of the action happening up in Canada. That's simply the pattern the show has embraced for far too long. This premiere sets out to do some things slightly different. It's still fundamentally about June surviving injuries that would reasonably kill anyone else in the same circumstance with the same lack of access to life-saving supplies. The narrative wants the viewer to suspend our disbelief in the situation. It then calls attention to the fact that June's body is no longer as strong as it once was. That could be a searing point in a world where controlling women's bodies is such a central plot point. In this instance, it's mostly June lacking the physical ability to take the same actions as the past. Instead, she passes that on to the next generation. She is horrified by Mrs. Keyes' stories of repeated rape. Their dynamic instead comes across as June reaching out as a mother and trying to comfort this young girl. But it builds to the sanctioning of a murder. June listens to Esther's need for Mayday to take action and grow violent once more. Safety on this farm provides salvation to the other handmaids. It's a simple life. One that still provides small comforts. June is still protective of Janine through it all. However, she still feels boldly compelled to act towards violence. A man is killed. June provides comfort to Esther. This serves as a surrogate bond for what June would be like as a mother at this point. It's not exactly good or healthy. It's what she rationalizes in order to survive. That's still what she is doing. This farm comes under threat through the sheer presence of this one intruder. That sets things into motion. At least, that's what June declares at this moment. She heals. She can't sit idly by and allow more violence to be done to her and her allies. It's the same as what the narrative has overwhelmingly done for a long time now. It's nothing particularly new. That could derail this new season before it truly gets moving at all.